TPC warns over imports, but SBT says no oversupply yet

What you need to know:

  • He said large stocks of the imported sugar are still being sold in the local market although their timeline is over as local production has resumed

Moshi. TPC Limited has said “unregulated” sugar imports are frustrating local production.

But in a swift rejoinder, Sugar Board of Tanzania (SBT) director general Kenneth Bengesi dismissed the claim.

“How can the market be saturated to the extent of frustrating local production while we haven’t met the required buffer stock?” he told The Citizen yesterday.

Earlier, the Moshi-based firm said it has stocks of the commodity because the local market is saturated with the imported sugar.

A senior TPC official, Mr Jaffary Ally, said it was time the government intervenes to ensure the local sugar producers are protected.

He said large stocks of the imported sugar are still being sold in the local market although their timeline is over as local production has resumed.

An arrangement between the government and the local producers gives room for sugar importation at the peak of the rainy season when farming is suspended.

However, Mr Ally said even after the end of the rains, large quantities of the imported sugar are still being sold in the shops.

The company official voiced its concerns during a visit to the facility by the deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), Mr Patrobas Katambi.

“If this is left to continue, it will reach a time when the local producers will close down,” Mr Ally warned in a briefing to the deputy minister.

He said the government continued to give permits to the sugar importers knowing too well that the stoppage time for the local production was over.

TPC Limited, the oldest sugar producer in the country, has already started to feel the pinch as their daily sales have dropped sharply.

Before the government allowed sugar importation, the firm’s daily sales were in the range of 400 and 450 tonnes of the sweetener.

As of last week, the daily sales have sharply dropped to only 60 to 70 tonnes per day amid fears that this will drop further.

Mr Ally could not say if his firm had also been given a permit to import sugar when the flooded sugar cane fields stopped production this year.

Importation of the commodity to cover for the shortfall during the suspension of local production is normally the preserve of sugar producers themselves.

Mr Ally implored on the government to review the sugar import arrangement in such a way that the local producers are protected.

Declining sales of sugar stocks will not only impact on the company sales but also employment for hundreds of workers at the mills.

But, speaking to The Citizen over the phone, Prof Bengesi refuted TPC Limited reports that the country had saturated sweetener, saying no manufacturing company met importation obligations when production was suspended.

“They were supposed to import 60,000 tonnes of sugar to fill the deficit, but instead only 50,000 to 51,000 tonnes was imported,” he said questioning, how the market can be saturated.

Prof Bengesi said the Sugar Industry Act 2001 requires that at any moment, the country should have sugar buffer stock enough for at least two months consumption.

“Sugar available stock cannot satisfy the country’s demand for the next single month. But, since the companies have resumed production, we are confident that the buffer stock will be realised and the market situation will continue to be stable,” he said.

“I’m the one controlling the country’s sugar stocks and issuing import permits. Nobody has been permitted to import the produce after June 30, 2022 which was the deadline,” he added.

But, during the visit Mr Katambi who is deputy minister of state in the PMOs responsible for Labour, Youth, Employment and the Disabled, promised to take the matter to his colleagues in the government.

“There must be a way to resolve this. The local industries must be protected and allowed to sustain production to boost the economy”, he explained.

Last year TPC Limited workers shared Sh. 2.3 billion amongst themselves being profit generated during the period.